You are a very good instructor…
…something almost any diver can identify is how many different styles of teaching dive professionals may have and how many different systems they employ. All scuba diving organisations train their professionals to focus on safety and the control of the student. They have been well prepared for the job they are meant to do. Professional divers will take care of your safety, organise logistics and show you amazing reefs and marine life.
However, you may find that some professionals are more professional than others.
Today I want to share with you a few tips to help you decide, if the person in front of you really prioritises your safety. It is not to unmask the one that doesn’t, but to help you value the one that does.
7 Tips to discover, if a professional is a professional
1 – The hero
Forget it, they are not heroes! A professional is not superman rescuing a damsel in distress. This is not the role of a professional diver and it was never meant to be. A good professional is NOT someone who makes you believe that everything is going to be fine just because he is gonna be on your side. A truly professional instructor will tell you whether he believes you are ready to do a dive safely or not. He is honest and tells you the truth. Professionals teach and motivate you to do things yourself and never push you into doing something that you are not ready for or not comfortable with.
2 – The military style
“Don’t put the air gauge here, it has to be there!” Sometimes your instructor might move it, without even telling or explaining you.
You are not stupid, don’t trust someone that believes teaching is about telling you what to do without explaining why! The case may be that your instructor doesn’t really know why himself. This attitude of giving orders also contributes to diver stress and may discourage students from believing in their own capabilities to partake in diving. Trusting your safety to someone that doesn’t understand “the why” of diving is not the best choice for you.
3 – Lonely Divers
Some professionals seem to forget, almost immediately after descending, that there are other divers following right behind them. They fail to check their divers frequently, perhaps only checking during the descent and ascent. It is always preferable to glance over at your divers more often, rather than not often enough.
Dive professionals are there to assure safety and guide divers, not to enjoy the dive all by themselves. Checking divers irregularly can lead to many situations including lost divers, low on air situations and even panic attacks. A few negative experiences can be more than enough to steer any diver from wanting to dive again and probably it happens more often than it should.
For students this is an even more important consideration. Not checking a student often enough can lead to trouble and even uncontrolled ascents.
There are many ways an instructor can conduct a dive with students to ensure sufficient contact, whether swimming alongside or even backwards. The instructor must be in a position to be able to see and have control of the student during the entire dive. Aside from this, if the instructor doesn’t check you underwater, how is he going to debrief you? How is he going to tell you how you could possibly improve as a diver?
4 – The owner of a lead weight company
Considering how many divers overweight themselves, some professionals make the impression that they are paid for every kilogram of weight they add to a student. Be aware of a professional that attempts to strap you with so much lead that you would have to be weighted by the tonne.
Most probably in this case the instructor or divemaster doesn’t understand buoyancy and it raises questions regarding their understanding of the divers safety. There are many reasons why diving with too much weight results in poor performance.
Click here to learn about “The Bad Habit of Overweighting”.
5 – The truth
Unless it’s a safety reason, it is rare that you would hear a true professional telling you that there is only one way of doing the things. For example, there are many ways one can clear a mask, position the tank, propel oneself through the water or equalize the ears.
A true professional will explain his methods and why they may be preferable in certain instances. They will also provide you with options and alternatives and allow you to choose what works best for you. Above all, they will respect your decision. Someone who obliges you to dive only their way doesn’t care about you feeling comfortable underwater or not. Being uncomfortable underwater is usually the first step that leads to future problems.
6 – Stress? No, thanks!
You may not notice it, but most professionals, especially in touristic destinations, are usually under a fair amount of stress. There is a lot of responsibility on their shoulders starting from planning dives, scheduling time, organising groups, sorting out gear, equipment checks, ensuring the correct paperwork and listening to concerns of their divers. Almost all of this happens while you are still setting up your own equipment!
A good professional though looks happy and relaxed, makes jokes and tries to create a good atmosphere while managing these tasks. This is their job and a true professional will feel totally in his element. It is their duty to take care of everything while you enjoy an easy day of diving. Ultimately, this is what you pay for!
Stress is one of diving’s biggest enemies. If a professional relays a part of his stress onto you, he is inadvertently increasing the odds of having problems underwater or even over-stressing you to the point that you no longer feel happy to dive.
7 – Instructors exist, because people want to learn how to dive
There are people who seem to learn faster and people who need more time to grasp certain aspects. Some professionals complain about students who struggle in their process of learning, when it is precisely those students who need more attention, patience and help. Supposedly this is why they became instructors in the first place.
I always say to my students, “Don’t worry. If everybody knew how to dive, I would not have a job!” And the truth is that many professionals seem to forget about this.
A good professional doesn’t get mad, if his student struggles. Perhaps he tries different ways to explain or demonstrate skills. He understands the process of learning and enjoys the challenge of transforming even a struggling student into a good diver. If the instructor feels he has tried everything, there is a whole community of professional divers who can be called upon for advice.
The student should never be or feel blamed for having problems or difficulties understanding the instructor. Doing so will only create, at best, an insecure diver. But it’s much more likely that the student will not want to complete the course.
There is no such thing as a bad student, only bad teachers.
However, as a small defense for professionals, it is important that you understand they are also human beings. As such it is very difficult to be perfect all the time.
It’s also important to realize what lies within the control of an instructor or divemaster. Decisions about dive sites, the groups arrangements and the daily schedule are very often decided by a superior (perhaps the owner or the manager of the dive center). The influence in the decision making by the professional is mostly pretty limited.
When this is the case, the superior is many times dry on land doing totally different work than the instructor does. Sometimes the supervisor might have less or almost none professional experience than the instructor and there can be a clash of objectives that places unfair stress on the instructor. But ultimately you should value the professional that puts your safety above anything else and covers the stress with a friendly smile.